For middleweight prospect Justin Sumter, his first win of 2018 was a step up in competition, which in turn has led to a step forward in his career.
Matched up with veteran Roger Carroll at 864 Fighting Championships in February, Sumter was able to put together a strong performance over all three rounds and come out with a unanimous decision win.
“Everyone knows Roger is a veteran of the sport,” Sumter told MMAWeekly.com. “He’s fought some of the toughest guys, and fought in Bellator a lot. He’s a well-rounded guy.
“Getting a victory over him definitely helped put me on a good step for the coming year and really motivated me. Him being a veteran he made me fight his fight, but I was able to come out on top and put that feather in my cap.”
With his win over the most experienced opponent he’s had to date, Sumter showed he’s come a long way since he kicked off his career on sour note in April of 2016.
“As everyone knows, I lost my pro debut,” said Sumter. “I was fighting a tough guy in Tim Caron, who was on the Contender Series, and having that fight and learning a lot about myself really drove me to fix those holes I saw in myself.
“I think my record and the way I’ve fought since then has shown the proof is in the pudding. I definitely put the work and it’s been showing every single fight.”
Sumter (6-1) will look to keep his current winning streak alive when he faces fellow up-and-comer Ian Heinisch (10-1) in a 185-pound bout on Dana White’s Contender Series on Tuesday in Las Vegas.
TRENDING > Khabib Nurmagomedov Happy to Change Conor McGregor’s Face and Mind
“Ian is kind of a pressure fighter who goes in and tries to grind guys out,” Sumter said. “He’s a short statured guy, while I’m a long rangy guy, so the way he pursues guys kind of falls into my wheelhouse. Me keeping my distance and range is definitely the way to victory.
“If you look at the rankings, he’s the top prospect not in the UFC at middleweight, so me coming out on top shows that New England MMA is not to be played with and we’re ready to come out on top to the world.”
For Sumter, competing on the Contender Series is already a positive for his career, but he’s looking to do more than just show up and win – he wants to make a statement.
“I get to showcase skills and really show people what I’m all about,” said Sumter. “Win or lose, just having this experience is a win for me.
“On past shows, they sign the exciting guys who really bring the fight. That’s what I’m looking to do when I step in the cage. I’m going to put pressure on (Heinisch), make him make mistakes, and then capitalize on them.”